Newcastle has a big heart, but it’s a small town.
North East England is a big place, but there are 150,000 more souls in Greater Manchester than there are in the 100 miles stretching between Middlesbrough and Berwick.
Population density in the North East is low. Newcastle has a population per km that’s only a third of Edinburgh, roughly an eighth of Manchester, London, Stockholm or Berlin, a tenth of Copenhagen, and a thirtieth of San Francisco.
Low population density means clustering and alignment of people and organisations doesn’t happen nearly as naturally, efficiently or effectively. It means cities and regions have to work so much harder at community building. It means small changes have a material impact, for better and for worse.
In terms of building tech companies, it means there’s a low density of experience available that can be shared. There are plenty of people in the region who have learnt through failure and success and have first-hand experience of selling software globally, building SaaS business models and raising investment, but proportionally their numbers are small and not easily accessible.
Without this experience to help make sense of their journey, it’s easy for founders to lose their way. Service providers and specialists charging day-rates will readily provide a map, but without the first-hand experience, they don’t neccessarily know the terrain. Talk to founders in the region often enough, and you’ll hear new stories about bad actors taking advantage or well-meaning advice causing harm with unfortunate regularity.
Since winding up Newcastle Tech Trust earlier in the year, I’ve been thinking about how, as a community, we can ensure positive interventions can occur, how we can course-correct and keep startups heading in the right direction — not because it guarantees success but because it ensures they don’t fail too easily, or for the wrong reasons.
#everyfounder is a new experiment to meet this aim.
We’re starting small, offering weekly office hours —a number of one-to-one sessions every month, first-come, first-served. Each session is with somebody from the region’s startup community who can offer a practical, critical, informed point of view across all areas of an early-stage business. It’s not about telling people what to do, but about helping them learn how to think. Everyone attending a session should leave with practical advice they can act on, or an offer of a referral to someone who can help them further.
These sessions are completely free. I’m a big believer that if you materially benefit from your community — that you find a way to give back to it, to ensure others can enjoy similar benefits in the future.
Putting a name to this, creating a website, there’s a danger I’m assuming a position on behalf of others in the community — so I’m delighted that founders at over a dozen technology companies and organisations in the region are supporting #everyfounder and have agreed to offer their time freely for coaching and accepting follow-on referrals.
Office hours begin later this month, and can be booked through the #everyfounder website. We’ll try to offer session times before, during and after the usual work and school hours to everyone can access support.
If you’ve any questions, you can email email@example.com — and if you’d like to support us, feel free to spread the word.